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IBM mobile taps Citrix DaaS for desktop access

IBM customers will have a new way to deliver desktops and make sense of mobile analytics, but questions about its appeal remain.

IT pros now have another way to give end users access to desktops and applications on any device, anywhere and analyze mobile device use.

IBM Mobile Services added two new capabilities to its portfolio this week, including mobile analytics tools and delivery of desktop as a service (DaaS) through IBM SoftLayer.

This new DaaS subscription service for IBM customers comes pre-packaged with Citrix Workspace Suite, so users can access desktops on mobile devices anytime.

DaaS may not be workable for companies that haven't fully accepted the cloud, however. Such a move may require a company to procure high-speed, low-latency bandwidth that it doesn't need on-premises.

"I don't think the pendulum has swung that far to the cloud yet, to have DaaS make sense for legacy people that are heavily entrenched in on-premises stuff," said Matt Kosht, IT director for a utility company in Alaska.

But companies that rely on cloud services may see the appeal.

"If you're a startup, it's awesome because you don't have all that baggage to carry into the cloud," Kosht said.

Citrix Workspace Suite includes a control plane in the cloud. It also allows organizations to choose which components belong in the cloud and what can stay on-premises, Kosht said.

"It was only logical for [Citrix] to partner with somebody because they don't have an Amazon or a Microsoft or an IBM infrastructure to power these [cloud desktops]," Kosht said. "You have to lean on that [platform] for the horsepower to host all these desktops."

IBM has partnered with Citrix in the past to deliver desktops and applications through XenDesktop and XenApp, and saw an opportunity to partner with Citrix for DaaS, too, said Linda Lyding, director of IBM's Mobile Services portfolio.m on its own, said to partner with Citrix for DaaS technology as opposed to going out and providing the virtualization platf

IBM analytics goes beyond the device

In addition to the new DaaS service, IBM will also offer a new mobile analytics tool. It is deployed as a software as a service (SaaS) application and gives admins a view into how their business uses enterprise applications and devices.

The SaaS app uses an analytics correlation engine from IBM to analyze the data collected from devices, which can then be accessed through a dashboard so admins can spot performance issues with apps, devices and networks.

Many small and mid-sized companies use cloud services, but IBM products and tools don't cater to all businesses. IBM Mobile Services are no different, said Michael Finneran, mobile analyst and president of dBrn Associates in Hewlett Neck, N.Y.

"[IBM] is such a big enterprise and it's going in so many different directions, and really the appeal is primarily to large enterprises," Finneran said.

Because of that, not all companies will take advantage of IBM's mobile analytics tool. Some companies may only want to keep data on employee devices secure, whereas others may only need limited analytics capabilities.

The idea of analytics itself is well established within enterprise mobility, and IBM is no stranger to providing those services. Last week, the company introduced Verse, an email tool that automatically categorizes incoming email based on user behavior and what's in the message.

"Every vendor is going to have a stake in analytics in the next year or so, because that's how we derive value from the investments we're making today," said Craig Mathias, analyst and founder of Farpoint Group, a wireless advisory firm in Ashland, Mass. "That's how we get total cost of ownership down, that's how we improve the productivity of operations staff and ultimately the productivity of end users."

IBM is investing $1.2 billion to expand to 40 data centers worldwide, and will spend an additional $1 billion on a cloud development platform and cloud marketplace for business, IT and development professionals, the company said.

The mobile analytics and DaaS features are available now as part of IBM Mobile Services. The new features can be purchased as separate subscriptions. The company declined to provide specific pricing for the features, but IBM's products are known to be premium priced. IBM's MobileFirst Platform Foundation (formerly IBM Worklight), for example, listed for $36,700 per seat per year.

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Do IBM's additions to its Mobile Services platform make it more attractive as an option?

I think IBM is still clueless on what's happening in the cloud space. Nor are they respected as a cloud innovator like the lead they had in enterprise IT.